June 15th, 2018
I asked Sarah where she would like to have our interview…
“It’s raining, and I feel apologetic because it’s raining while Laura is in town. I hoped for clear skies. It’s really quite spectacular to look down the Columbia River and see the crest of St. Helens pale against the sky as you cross the bridge from Astoria. Instead, the fog is thick as ever. It’s one of those low-hanging, purplish fogs. It sits thick atop the Willapa Hills, making them look taller than normal. It’s northwest beauty. It mutes the greens, forces them into deep shadows, and makes you wonder what quiet creatures hide beneath the ferns.
The Pickled Fish is on the top floor of a beachfront hotel. It’s the only place you can see the sea while eating. The skies are parting, however briefly, to let silver light through. It lights up the ocean in a spectacular show. The waves are churning and growing. I stir cream into my coffee. I have a bad habit of staring at the skies. I promise I’m listening. I don’t mean to be rude. It’s just so god damn impressive.
“What was that?” I heard the first time, but my mind takes a moment to free itself from the storm outside.”
Laura Mae: What inspired you to enter the world of writing?
Sarah Jane Day: I honestly couldn’t tell you. I’ve always been fascinated by stories and books. I am not exaggerating. When I was little, I used to stuff as many books as I could into my stroller to push around. You gotta stock up for your travels.
My earliest writing memory is actually of this poorly illustrated picture book about a chicken named Henrietta. I know, I know. Very original ideas from an eight year old. I probably didn’t spell Henrietta correctly either. (I think I’m going to need to see that at some point.)
L: How long have you been writing for?
S: I’m going with… about 20 years if you count the chicken picture book. I’m not half bad by now. I’m kind of hoping I don’t blossom until I’m 50. At that point, I’ll have 4 decades of experience. Could you imagine?
Today, I read something about how no one needs to know that you had to learn to write. Let them believe it’s just this natural, magical ability. I think it was Hemingway. If it was, he definitely didn’t use the word “magic”. (I can’t even imagine 1 year from now.)
L: What are you currently working on?
S: I am working on a novel about a young witch and her living grimoire. She is a little larger than life because she has lived six other lifetimes alongside this cat, her Grimoire. She has access to her previous knowledge, which makes her a powerful witch.
I’m kind of a mean writer. I introduce this thing called a Hollywink. I talk about it several times, but I don’t tell the reader what it is until much later in the book. Even though it’s really important.
Yeah. A Hollywink. I hope it haunts you. (EEP!)
L: Are there any books or authors who inspire your work?
S: Oh yes. I want to throw out a disclaimer. I have a weird background. I worked at a library, a bookstore, a book warehouse, and went to college for literature and creative writing. I have been led down a weird reading labyrinth. Here are my top three:
Jorge Luis Borges, hands down the best writer I’ve ever read. He’s an Argentinian writer, and from what I understand… he was a very well read recluse. His short stories will mess with your head in the most beautiful way. To me, he is the master of creating the willing suspension of disbelief. What I mean by that is you become so absorbed by his stories that you are willing to accept the reality he builds on the page. The magic he creates is so real. It’s incredible. Study this man’s writing.
The next one is by a Finnish writer, Arto Paasilinna. He wrote this book called The Year of the Hare. I love this book because it reads like a series of tall tales. It’s about a man who runs away with a hare. He ends up in all these strange circumstances and does some pretty incredible things. Paasilinna surprises and delights with this one. It’s like the book version of eating a gourmet pastry. It’s both playful and artful.
Annie Dillard. This woman is incredible. She might be the master of observation. I’m reading the Pilgrim at Tinker Creek right now. It’s like an explosion of thought and nature that’s pretty indescribable. Personally, I love this stuff. I feel like she really means it when she writes, and it might be overdone in some ways… but she really pushes language. It can also teach you how to go out and find inspiration. (Love it!)
L: Besides writing, what is it you like to do?
S: My favorite thing to do other than write is probably dining. Good food and conversation are magical things. That’s how friendships are born. It also often leads into drinking and smoking… I’m fan of both of those activities as well. Within reason. I mean… there is some truth to what a glass of wine can do for poetry. (I love food, too! How weird!)
L: What would you say is your favorite book or series of all time?
S: Emperor of the Eight Islands! It’s only four books long, but you cannot put these down once you start. Do yourself a favor. Order the whole series, not just the first book. If you love anything about Japanese history and culture as well as a bit of magic, you will love these books. (Sounds interesting!)
L: In a brief statement, have you self-published or traditionally published? What was your experience?
S: I’m a self-published poet. I put out a collection called Petrified Creature without the intention of marketing it. I just needed to do it. I’ll be going all in for my novel, though. (Can’t wait to read it!)
L: What does a typical day of writing look like for you? Any rituals or ‘must-haves’?
S: I don’t believe in writer’s block, so I try not to be too picky with my process. I find there are things that amp up my creative energy, though. For whatever reason, quietly staring at water gets me in a really good head space. Walks are great for creative energy as well. I think simply take the time to let the mind work through things can help drive the writing process. If you sit in front of the screen and you’re all stiff… your writing sort of becomes stiff. (Totally agree.)
L: Any songs or type of music you need to listen to when you write?
S: Nine times out of ten, I prefer silence. If my environment is noisy for some reason, I just look up ambient writing music on YouTube. I’m not very picky. It’s just there to drown out other noise. I will say I have a guilty pleasure for banjo and cowboy music… (The banjo is so catchy, though!)
L: Describe how your WIP is going with a meme or gif.
L: Whats a word or phrase that people say that always irritates you?
S: I hate it when people use the word “woke” in a wannabe cool way. It’s just obnoxious. Please stop. Stop it now. (C’mon Sarah, get woke!)
L: Who is your favorite literary character and why?
S: It’s hard to choose just one, so I’ll choose an archetype. I like the fools. They introduce humor and lightness of being into a book. They shake things up and are unpredictable. Fools will always hold a special place in my bookish heart. (I pity the fool!)
L: Where would you say you get most of your inspiration?
S: Outside! Is it inappropriate to say mountains give me lady boners? You can cut that part if so. There’s just something about nature that gets the wheels turning. I think it has something to do with taking the time to observe. It enriches my ability to describe things in writing, and I get to experience things I wouldn’t experience on the couch. I think it’s important to get out there and see what there is to see. It helps make your writing feel more genuine, more real. (Mountains are the best things besides oceans. Can’t get enough of seeing them, either.)
L: For aspiring writers out there, what would be the best advice you want them to know?
S: I could give you so much advice, but I’m going to tell you about a super weird trick that improved my writing tenfold.
Practice imitating other styles. Example: take a paragraph from Harry Potter and rewrite it like Tom Robbins or I don’t know… Jane Austen. This probably sounds really strange, but it will teach you how to play with language. It’s also a great warm up if you’re not feeling creative. (Great advice!)
Sarah Jane Day is a poet, editor, and marketing geek. She graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in literature and creative writing. She lives on the beach with her husband and cat, Miko Beans Day.
You can follow Sarah on LinkedIn if you are a fellow writer. She also has two websites; her blog that she manages with her husband, and her editing site. Or you can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Petrified Creature: Poetry — Petrified Creature is a little bit wild and a little bit literary. It is the culmination of five years worth of exploring, discovering, and reflecting. The author recommends pairing this poetry with a warm cup of tea or coffee. It is also best read outside or with an open window.
Buy her book here!
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